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cinema’s most unflinching zoom…


To call Canadian artist Michael Snow a filmmaker somehow seems woefully inadequate. For while Snow undeniably makes films, he may be more aptly described as a film sculptor, or perhaps a cine-alchemist. For five decades now, this founding father of avant-garde cinema has been tearing apart and reassembling the DNA of film language in a series of dazzling experiments — and lest that sound austere or forbidding, I should add that Snow possesses a healthy reserve of impish good humor.

Born in Toronto in 1929, Snow graduated from the Ontario School of Art and, by 1956, had already made his first short, a four-minute animation titled A to Z. But at that time Snow was preoccupied with his painting, photography and jazz musicianship — interests he continues to pursue today — and so movies were put on the back burner until the 1960s, when he moved to New York. There he found himself at the epicenter of a heady experimental-film scene whose guiding lights included Hollis Frampton, Jonas Mekas and Ken Jacobs.

Wavelength (1967) remains Snow’s best-known work, and it is some kind of historic achievement, a movie in which time, space and movement are the stars, with human characters tossed cavalierly to the sidelines. Famous for having the longest zoom shot (45 minutes) in cinema, and as an influence on filmmakers from Stanley Kubrick to Chantal Akerman, Wavelength offers an uninterrupted traversal of a New York loft space from one end to the other, accompanied by a sound track of waves (both sonic and oceanic) and the Beatles singing “Strawberry Fields Forever.”

Yet it’s hardly as single-minded as it sounds. Without cutting, Snow employs tricks of exposure and filtration to take us from day to night to day again, from the dingy-gray environs of a Lower Manhattan walk-up to a shock-white mod nightmare. Wavelength catches us up so profoundly in the raw possibilities of movies’ structural (as opposed to narrative) properties that when its own “murder” occurs, most viewers don’t immediately realize anything has happened.

(LA WEEKLY  11.17.11)

screening friday 11.18 @ Cinefamily 611 N Fairfax, L.A…

“WAVELENGTH” 1967 directed by Michael Snow


photos of an unknown…


When John Maloof bid on a box of old photo negatives at an estate auction in 2007, little did he know he was stepping deep into the mystery of Vivian Maier.

Maloof, then a real estate agent, was looking for images to use in a book about the history of the Portage Park neighborhood. Instead, what he found were 30,000 images by Maier, who spent much of her time wandering Chicago and the world as a street photographer with a keen eye for capturing compelling images.

Since then, Maloof has amassed an archive of Maier’s life and work. Stashed in the attic studio of his Portage Park home are her cameras, 2,000 rolls of film, 3,000 prints and 100,000 negatives, as well as many 8mm movies and audiotapes. Stacks of old suitcases, a steamer trunk of clothes and scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings are stacked against one wall.

“When I bought all this, I had no idea what it was,” Maloof said. “I’m a third-generation flea market seller and could have easily just sold it all to someone else.”

Maier’s photographs and life story are gaining attention, including at the Chicago Cultural Center, where the exhibit “Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer” opens Friday.

“There weren’t many women doing street photography in the ’50s and ’60s,” said Lanny Silverman, chief curator at the Cultural Center. “So this is very interesting and noteworthy. Beyond just the story of her life, I think she’s quite a good photographer.”

Maloof and his longtime friend Anthony Rydzon are co-directing a documentary about Maier. A book, due out later this year, also is in the works. For some time now, they’ve been stitching together the details of Maier’s life and trying to fill in the blanks.

The details of Maier’s life are slowly lining up, according to Maloof. They’ve contacted several local families that employed her as a nanny and talked with employees of Central Camera, where she had film developed. But as of now no direct relatives have turned up.

Maier was born in 1926 in New York and spent much of her childhood in France. In 1951, she returned to New York and in 1956 came to Chicago to work as a nanny for a North Shore family. Maier, who was a private person by all accounts and a bit of a character, always had a Rolleiflex camera around her neck. She dressed in oversize coats, broad-brimmed hats and stout shoes.

“First thing in the morning on her day off, the camera would be around her neck, and we wouldn’t see her again until late at night,” said Maren Baylaender, whose husband employed Maier to care for his disabled daughter. “I remember her as a private person but one who had very strong opinions about movies and politics.”

Maier was a theater and movie buff. She was a hoarder and a bit of a recluse, but she wasn’t afraid to walk the street with her camera and engage people, some of whom she interviewed on audiotape. She seems to have been somewhat obsessed with her “second job,” documenting the world around her.

“She was a true artist and followed her dreams and what she wanted to do in life,” said Rydzon, 31. “She didn’t let anyone or anything stop her.”

Maier’s work is the purest form of art; none of it was done for any commercial reason. Her images lean toward women, children, the old, the poor, the abstract.

Silverman sees influences in her pictures ranging from the abstracts reminiscent of Institute of Design greats Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind to the styles of Diane Arbus, Lisette Model and Helen Levitt, and he wonders: “Was Vivian very sophisticated and able to do this or was she a tasteful lifter of those who came before her?”

At one point, Maier spent nearly a year traveling around the world to exotic and out-of-the-way destinations with her camera as her only companion. Another mystery is how she could afford such a trip. There is some evidence of an inheritance, Rydzon says.

Maloof and Rydzon are looking for the answer to these and many other questions about Maier’s life and work. The results of their detective work will be unveiled in the book and documentary film “Finding Vivian Maier.” They are raising funds for the film on kickstarter.com (search for Vivian Maier). As Maloof scans in more of her photos, he posts them at vivianmaier.com.

(SUN-TIMES  1.2.11)

many, many fine examples of  Vivian Maier’s work here

“Finding Vivian Maier: Chicago Street Photographer” on view 1.8 – 4.3.11 at the Chicago Cultural Center

2010 in photos…

some big pictures…

Lightning streaks across the sky as lava flows from an Icelandic volcano in Eyjafjallajokul April 17, 2010. The volcano spewed ash into the air for weeks, wreaking havoc on flights across Europe. (REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)


As the year 2010 approaches its last few days, it’s time to look back on the previous 12 months. In the first third of 2010, Millions of gallons of oil spewed into the Gulf of Mexico, several massive earthquakes wreaked havoc worldwide, Vancouver hosted a successful Winter Olympics, and so much more. Each photo tells its own tale, weaving together into the larger story of 2010.

A US army soldier with the 101st Airborne Division Alpha Battery 1-320th fires an AT-4 as Combat Outpost Nolen on the outskirts of the village of Jellawar in the Arghandab Valley came under Taliban attack on September 11, 2010. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)

A tremendous sinkhole caused by the heavy rains of Tropical Storm Agatha in Guatemala City was estimated to be 30 meters wide and over 60 meters deep. As the sinkhole formed, it swallowed a clothing factory about three miles from the site of a similar sinkhole three years earlier. The clothing factory had closed only an hour before it plunged into the Earth. (REUTERS/Casa Presidencial)

After a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck Yushu, Qinghai, China on April 14, 2010, killing over 2,500 residents, praying Tibetan monks are seen through flames, distorted by the heat shimmer above the mass cremation of victims of the earthquake on April 17, 2010. (AP Photo)

The collapsed Borde Rio apartment building is seen in Concepcion, Chile, Thursday, March 4, 2010. On February 27th, a devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake struck Chile, one of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)

The Guizer Jarl or Chief of the Jarl viking squad stands before the burning viking longship during Up Helly Aa in Lerwick, Scotland on January 26, 2010. (CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images)

South Korean Marine Corps’ amphibious vehicles and the Navy’s Landing Platform Helicopter (LPH) ship “Dokdo” (background) take part in a mock landing operation in the sea off Incheon, west of Seoul, September 15, 2010. The operation marked the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-led United Nations troops’ Incheon Landing Operations during the 1950-1953 Korean War. (REUTERS/Jo Yong-Hak)

(BOSTON.COM  12.14.10)

find all 120 photos in 3 parts — part 1, part 2, part 3


Eggleston’s Southern Gothic restored…


Legendary photographer William Eggleston, working with filmmaker Robert Gordon, recently edited thirty hours of video footage he’d shot in 1974 of friends, family, and eclectic characters encountered in the bars and back roads of his hometown of Memphis, as well as New Orleans and the Delta region.

The hypnotic result is Stranded in Canton, a film that consistently teeters on the edge of dream and nightmare states. Its nocturnal visions of bar denizens, musicians (including Furry Lewis), transvestites and a variety of semi-crazies comes off like a Cassavetes all-nighter filmed by David Lynch at his most unsettling: faces loom out of darkness, shot in infrared, displaying pale glowing skin and deep black eyes. There’s even a real-life geek-off (yes, the type with chickens)!

And it’s mesmerizing, partly thanks to the outsized characters who fill the screen, and partly because Eggleston turns the “home movie” into art — Father of Modern Color Photography he may be, but he kicks just as much ass in eerie B&W, wrenching glorious images out of the early Sony Porta-Pak to conjure a febrile, desperate atmosphere that captures the Southern Gothic with an extraordinarily raw and rambling intimacy.

(CINEFAMILY  10.31.10)

“STRANDED IN CANTON” 1974/2008 directed by William Eggleston

don’t miss the screening this tuesday 11.2 — special guests TBA @ the Cinefamily organized by LACMA in conjunction with its exhibition opening today “William Eggleston: Democratic Camera – Photographs and Video, 1961-2008” — though januay 2011…

photograffeur JR…

winner of the 2011 TED Prize


It’s not common for important philanthropic prizes to go to people whose work involves criminal trespass and who make statements like the following: “You never know who’s part of the police and who’s not.”

But the TED conference, the California lecture series named for its roots in technology, entertainment and design, said on Tuesday that it planned to give its annual $100,000 prize for 2011 — awarded in the past to figures like Bill Clinton, Bono and the biologist E. O. Wilson — to the Parisian street artist known as J R, a shadowy figure who has made a name for himself by plastering colossal photographs in downtrodden neighborhoods around the world. The images usually extol local residents, to whom he has become a Robin Hood-like hero.

For most recipients, the value of the six-year-old award has less to do with the money than with the opportunity it grants the winner to make a “wish”: to devote the funds to a humanitarian project that will almost inevitably draw donations and other help from the organization’s corporate partners and influential supporters. The chef Jamie Oliver, the 2010 prize winner, recently proposed setting up an international effort to further his campaign against obesity; Mr. Clinton’s wish has channeled significant resources toward the creation of a rural health system in Rwanda.

Reached by telephone on Wednesday morning on a bus in Shanghai, where he was headed to work on a largely unauthorized photo-pasting project to draw attention to the city’s demolition of historic neighborhoods, J R said that he had learned of the prize only two weeks ago and that he had not yet had time to think of a wish.

But he said that it would undoubtedly involve his kind of guerrilla art, which he has been creating with the help of volunteers in slums in Brazil, Cambodia and Kenya — where the outsize photographs, printed on waterproof vinyl, doubled as new roofs for ramshackle houses. “I’m kind of stunned,” he said of the prize. “I’ve never applied for an award in my life and didn’t know that somebody had nominated me for this.”

At a time when street art is being embraced not only by the art world but also by branding interests, J R, who dislikes being called a street artist, preferring the term “photograffeur” (graffeur is French for graffiti artist) has become known for rejecting corporate sponsorship offers and other outside help. He said that he reinvested most of the money he makes by selling his art in galleries and at auction — one piece went for more than $35,000 at Sotheby’s in 2009 — into creating more ambitious projects, and that he would use the TED prize money for the same purpose.

“If there’s one thing I’ve always taken care of with my work, it’s that it’s never an advertisement for anything other than the work itself and for the people it’s about — no ‘Coca-Cola presents,’ ” he said, speaking in English. “I think the TED people knew that that was one of my main concerns, and I feel pretty sure that we can come up with a project that works that way.”

the article continues...

(NY TIMES  10.19.10)

many more incredible projects at JR’s website


thirty plus years photographing L.A…


Los Angeles photographer John Humble has been documenting the dynamic structure of the city and all of its rivers, highways, and suburbs for more than 30 years. The recipient of a 1979 National Endowment for the Arts award to photograph the city on the occasion of its bicentennial, Humble continued over the years to capture the views that make L.A. unique.

(FLAVORPILL  10.6.10)

an exhibition of John Humble photography is on view at Stieglitz 19, Antwerp through 10.10.10…


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